The Advantages and Disadvantages of various assessment methods

Skills recognition processes should be designed to be as user-friendly as possible for the applicant (and, where relevant, the employer).

The advantages and disadvantages of various methods are summarised below, along with some risk mitigation guidelines.

Workplace observation


Assurance that evidence is authentic, valid and current

Applicant need not leave workplace

Can illustrate competence through reference to/use of workplace facilities and resources

Necessary method for some high risk activities and roles


Applicant may feel pressured, affecting performance

Assessor needs access to workplace


Ensure that the applicant is fully informed

Allow more than one attempt and inform the applicant that they are eligible for a second attempt.

Negotiate with the employer to allow workplace access




Enables assessment under simulated degraded or emergency conditions

Enables assessment of infrequent events that have not otherwise occurred during workplace assessment


In the case of safety critical roles in rail, requires access to simulator


Third party report


Can provide useful backup

Process need not be complicated. e.g. Third party completes form or checklist


Need to confirm that information is authentic and current

Third party must be informed and credible


Request a statutory declaration, signed and witnessed appropriately


in the form of a competency conversation, professional conversation, learning conversation, interview




Provides immediate feedback

Provides opportunity to explore skills and experience in greater depth

Does not disadvantage applicants with limited reading and writing skills


Requires a skilled assessor

Applicant performance may be influenced by assessor’s style



If possible, hold group assessments. This can elicit more detail, as applicants jog memories and support one another





Can provide extensive information on applicant skills, knowledge and experience

May be used in both group and individual assessment

Familiar assessment method for some applicants

Allows for differences in learning styles


Requires writing and presentation skills

May ask for skills that are not required of the unit of competency

May not be a good indication of workplace competence

May be judged on presentation rather than content

Difficult to confirm validity


Cross check validity with a peer or colleague


Print portfolio

hard-copy documentary evidence compiled by applicant

May include various forms of evidence of informal, non-formal and formal experience

Applicants are likely to be familiar with this approach


May be difficult to confirm authenticity

Currency can be an issue

May be judged on presentation rather than content


Check certifications, qualifications, third party reports and referees re: authenticity



electronic documentary evidence compiled by applicant


May include various forms of evidence of informal, non-formal and formal experience

Suits applicants who are comfortable working with computers and online environment

Can be streamlined through use of templates or ePortfolio software

Information can be electronically shared and stored

Minimises paper-based evidence collection


Requires computer literacy

May be difficult to confirm authenticity/validity

May be judged on presentation rather than content


Check documents for authenticity where possible

Allow for a paper-based portfolio


Point of view glasses

video camera worn by an individual to take live audio-visual footage from the perspective of that person.


When worn by applicant or a colleague, provides audio-visual evidence of the applicant performing a work activity

Particularly useful in assessing the skills of workers who are geographically remote from the assessor


Requires access to the technology


Challenge Test

also called skills test


Can include practical, written and/or oral elements

Provides opportunity for targeted testing of safety critical activities and roles

Can test understanding and recall


May not adequately assess skills requiring synthesis and analysis

Stress may influence applicant performance


Ensure the applicant is fully informed about the nature of the exercise

Allow for a second opportunity and inform the applicant of this opportunity prior to taking the challenge.